The Midnight Peacock (The Sinclair’s Mysteries)

Written by Katherine Woodfine
Review by Sarah Hendess

I’ve long argued that much of today’s best literature is written for children, and Katherine Woodfine’s The Mystery of the Midnight Peacock proves me right. Woodfine’s fourth offering in her Sinclair Mysteries series, this novel for children ages nine and up cleverly marries Downton Abbey and Scooby-Doo.

As 1909 draws to a close, Sophie Taylor and Lilian Rose are invited to spend the holidays at Winter Hall, a stately old manor in the English countryside. The two young detectives, who are employed by Sinclair’s department store in London, uncover a spooky mystery at the manor and must stop an evil plot before the villain can wreak havoc on New Year’s Eve.

This book has everything a classic British children’s book should have: plucky orphans, snowy weather, a drafty manor house, and lots of food. And in a twist that’s both entirely modern and historically accurate, Woodfine diversifies her cast a bit—a biracial maid at the manor house and a Chinese family in London’s East End. While I was able to understand and enjoy the story without having read the first three books in the series, I would recommend reading the earlier books first. It took me several chapters to completely understand the relationships among some of the characters, and there were some references to earlier books that were not explained. I suspect there is a story arc not only to each individual novel but to the series as a whole, in the same vein as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. The large number of minor characters got a little confusing at times, but it is sure to delight children and adults alike. Curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy.